My Zomblobs! is a game designed in shells. There are layers to the design, allowing for a “bird’s eye” game experience with little micromanaging, all the way down to a Civilization-like world conquering game with a Tactical RPG layer, between them plenty of opportunities to min-max your way into gaming geek happiness.
I’ve thought on more than one occasion that it could also be developed that way. As in, develop the outer shell as a functional game and iterate down through the shells until it’s ready to weld to the TRPG (which could also function on its own) as a complete package. Some of those iterations can stand on their own as playable games, perhaps even marketable ones.
This does spread out the work and allow for monetization to keep a project going, and even allows for design changes if it’s found that one of the iterations or directions isn’t playing well. It also runs the risk of oversaturating the IP, making releases too disparate (in theme and/or release date) and therefore too easily ignored, getting lost in a crowd of shovelware (or becoming shovelware), dev team turnover, and code bloat. There’s also the risk that all the shells may not play nice together if they have to bend to accommodate separate releases.
Still, there’s something appealing about the notion of breaking up a larger project into smaller bites to make it more manageable. I’m not really sold on either approach at the moment, but it is still interesting looking at options. The iPhone market and even XBox Live have allowed for smaller games to have decent viability in recent years, and I instinctively want to leverage that to make something bigger. It’s a business sense that I haven’t honed very well, to be honest, but one that I can’t quite ignore. I’d love to focus purely on designing the game and doing art for it, but the sad reality is that money makes the world go ’round, and if I want to turn the time I’ve spent on this into money (which really would be nice), I need to look at the business side of things.
On the other hand, since this is a one-man show at present, and I don’t have much programming ability or money to hire some, well… this may well all be academic anyway. Sure, I’d like to learn the programming someday, but there are only so many hours in the day.
Still… dream big or go home, right?
At any rate, since I’m thinking of shells, here’s a rough concept of the outermost shell of Zomblobs!, the 3D globe Ataxx-variant I’m dubbing the Cytoglobe:
It’s a game that could stand alone as a smart phone game (or XBox Live or PC, whatever… though smart phone mobility and connectivity opens up a few new design options), and it could host a variety of variations, from multiplayer rule variants to a full map editor. Ataxx-style play isn’t really all that mentally taxing, but it’s still fun, and I think a global geodesic version could be a nice spin on the idea. (There’s also a fun tactile appeal of playing this on a touch screen… or even with Kinect controls. Sort of a “megalomaniac conquering the globe” feel, as it were.)
Of course, from there it’s possible to drill down into discrete blobs with hit points instead of instant-capture, species-specific boons and weaknesses, location-specific special effects (with real world GPS twists, perhaps), progression mechanics (sometimes mistakenly called “RPG elements”), resource management, research trees and even stories. The full Zomblobs! game would then only be a hop skip and a jump away, pulling all the elements together in a tighter fashion and welding them to the tactical game.
There’s a lot I want to do here, and there are good reasons to limit the scope of any single project. Absent an organized plan of production, things can get hairy fast. I’m still not sure what I’ll even be able to do… but it’s good to at least make sure I look ahead. Forewarned is forearmed, and all that rot.
Would you buy a game that’s effectively a “slice” of a larger game? Would you just expect it to be a sort of neo-shareware, offered for free, and the other layers monetized underneath for those who care to dig deeper? Would you like a suite of games that work like cogs in a larger machine, or would you just want the larger machine? Could you wait for new pieces?
…are any of you bored programmers with an itch to work on this?
…would a publicly readable wiki on the design be something worth making available?
…would Battle for Wesnoth eat my lunch anyway?
…EDITED to add the following great link to The Rampant Coyote’s recent article on “Feature Creep”… a highly relevant article as I sort out exactly what I want to do here.